Lauri Lebo on the Christine Comer Case

WE found another excellent article by Lauri Lebo. Our last post about Lauri was here: Lauri Lebo on the Shipwreck of Mark Souder. If you don’t know who she is, the next two indented paragraphs will fill you in.

During the forty-day trial that led to the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Lauri was a reporter for the York Daily Record, the local paper for the site of the trial. Lauri’s byline was the brand name for superbly written, in-depth news stories from the courthouse.

Lauri and her work were prominently mentioned in the NOVA documentary, Judgment Day. She is also the author of: The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-town America.

Lauri’s latest is at the website Religion Dispatches , where we read Court Rules Against Texas Education Employee Forced To Resign Over Forwarded Email. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans last week upheld a district court decision that a policy of the Texas Education Agency requiring employees to be neutral on the issue of “evolution and creationism” is not unconstitutional.

We’ve been writing about that one. See: Christina Comer Loses Her Appeal. Let’s find out what Lauri says:

This whole story started way back when when the Texas Board of Education battle over its education curriculum was just beginning. Christine Comer was one of the first victims of the whole insanity of the process. A tenth-generation Texan, Comer had served as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science for nine years and had previously worked as a middle-school science teacher for twenty-seven years. She inadvertently stepped into a political brouhaha when she used her agency e-mail account in late 2007 to forward a message from the National Center for Science Education, under the subject heading “FYI.” An official, outraged over the email, demanded that Comer resign from her position.

What was in the email? Porn? We continue:

The issue? The email was about an upcoming talk by Barbara Forrest, a philosopher of science and one of the creationists’ most hated enemies. … In the 2005 intelligent design trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover, Forrest was the defendants’ most feared witness, who testified about the Wedge Document, an internal memo in which the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the nation’s leading proponent of intelligent design, outlined a public-relations strategy to destroy “scientific materialism” and affirm the idea that human beings are created in the image of God.

They don’t want any of that science stuff in Texas! Here’s more:

After Comer forwarded the email, Lizzette Reynolds, a TEA hire who had worked as an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush, recommended that Comer be fired, explaining that creationism and evolution are subjects “on which the agency must remain neutral.

That’s the official position in Texas — neutrality between science and Oogity Boogity. Gotta teach the controversy. Moving along:

In the three-panel judge decision, the appeals court wrote, “Upon review of the record and applicable law, we cannot conclude that TEA’s neutrality policy has the ‘primary effect’ of advancing religion. … “

Somehow, we get the impression that the court was totally clueless about what’s going on in Texas. Here’s the end of Lauri’s article:

Meanwhile, fast forward a few years [after Comer’s email incident], the Texas Board of Education has pushed through creationist-friendly language into the science curriculum standards and run roughshod over the social studies standards, inserting Christian exceptionalism propaganda throughout.

Where does this leave us, besides being bewildered? Well, the injustice done to Comer is now a federal appellate court decision, so one can hope that the federal trial court in California that’s hearing the David Coppedge suit against JPL will apply the same standard of blind deference to the policies of an employer.

The way we see it, if — following an irrational policy of equating science and creationism — a state employee like Comer can legally be fired for an email about evolution, there should be no problem with a federal trial court’s deciding that there was nothing wrong with JPL’s merely demoting a computer technician for advocating creationism on the job.

Here’s a link to all of Lauri’s articles at Religion Dispatches. Click on over there and read a few.

Update: See Discovery Institute: Comer, Coppedge, & Casey.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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